28 November 2014

Asymptomatic atherosclerosis is associated with cognitive impairment

In a study involving almost 2,000 adults, scientists at the University of Texas found that the asymptomatic formation of atherosclerotic plaques on the walls of large arteries is associated with impaired cognitive functions.

In atherosclerosis, plaques are formed on the inner surface of blood vessels, consisting of molecules of fats, cholesterol and other compounds. The plaques gradually grow and begin to interfere with the flow of blood. This can occur in any of the arteries, including the carotid artery that supplies blood to the brain, the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart, and the aorta – the largest arterial highway of the human body.

As part of the work, the authors analyzed the results of a survey of 1,903 participants of the Dallas Heart Study, a multi–ethnic population study conducted in Dallas County, Texas. The study involved men and women who did not have symptoms of diseases of the cardiovascular system, whose average age at the time of the survey was 44 years.

All participants were tested according to the Montreal Cognitive Function Assessment Scale, designed to detect mild cognitive impairment. (You can try to take the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, MoCA test, after reading the instructions: for each block there are translations into many languages, including Russian.)

He also underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, the purpose of which was to determine the volume of foci of hyperintensivity of the white matter of the brain.

According to the authors, the appearance of foci of hyperintensivity of white matter accompanies the normal aging process, but the excess volume of these foci is a marker of cognitive impairment.

Also, magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess the thickness of the walls of the carotid arteries and the abdominal aorta, and with the help of computed tomography (CT) – the number of calcified plaques on the walls of the coronary arteries.

To assess the correlation between the presence of atherosclerotic changes and mild cognitive impairment, the researchers processed the collected data using the statistical regression method. After correcting for well-known risk factors for atherosclerosis, including age, ethnicity, male sex, diabetes mellitus diagnosis, hypertension, smoking and body mass index, they revealed independent associations between atherosclerosis of three vascular regions of the body, and the state of cognitive functions assessed by the results of the MoCA scale and the volume of hyperintensivity foci on the obtained using MRI images.

Among the participants in the quartile with the maximum thickness of the carotid artery wall, cognitive function disorders detected using the MoCA scale were 21% more common. At the same time, an increase in the calcium content in the coronary artery wall correlated with an increased volume of foci of hyperintensivity of the white matter of the brain.

The authors note that the deposition of plaques on the inner walls of blood vessels reflects the state of brain health. And examinations using computer and magnetic resonance imaging can identify patients with early stages of atherosclerosis who are at high risk of developing cognitive impairment.

The results of the study will be presented at the annual congress of the Society of Radiologists of North America, which will be held from November 30 to December 5 in Chicago.

Evgeniya Ryabtseva
Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on the materials of the Radiological Society of North America:
Asymptomatic Atherosclerosis Linked to Cognitive Impairment.


Found a typo? Select it and press ctrl + enter Print version